Phoenix Motorcars/Think Global: Electrifying rides

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For the first time since the early 20th century, America is seeing a flowering of entrepreneurship in the auto industry. Today at least 15 new electric-car companies, each working on a wide range of technologies, have launched or plan to launch models.

Phoenix Motorcars, based in Ontario, Calif., will sell its electric pickup trucks and SUVs by the end of 2008. Its 4,800-pound truck can go 100 miles on a five-hour charge from a home outlet or on a ten-minute one at a special charging station. Its electric pickup will cost $47,500, about $10,000 more than the price of a comparable conventional pickup.

PG&E, the California utility, has ordered four of the vehicles. At first the company will lose money on each truck it makes, but it is counting on California clean-energy subsidies to keep it rolling until the price of its battery technology falls.

Think Global, a Norwegian startup that bought what was once Ford (F, Fortune 500)'s electric-vehicle program, has sold about 1,800 of its Think City, a tiny electric commuter car, in Norway. So far the company has raised $95 million from investors, including General Electric (GE, Fortune 500).

In April, Think Global announced a joint venture, Think North America, which is 50% owned by VC firms Kleiner Perkins and Rockport Capital Partners, both based in Menlo Park, Calif. Next year Think will introduce a new version of the car, driven by lithium-ion batteries-similar to those that power laptops-made by two startups: A123 of Watertown, Mass., and Ener1 of Fort Lauderdale.

The two-seater, which comes in convertible and hardtop, will sell for about $25,000 and go 100 miles on a few hours' charge. The firm aims to sell some 30,000 in the U.S. in 2010. Next up? An electric five-seat family car.




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